Bunch Riding Safety

Riding in a bunch can be the most enjoyable experience if done in the right way. However, bunch riding can also be a huge pain if people in the group don't understand the rules. Everyone needs to know these rules for everyone's safety.

Be predictable with all actions

Avoid sudden braking and changes of direction. Try to maintain a steady straight line. Remember that there are riders following closely behind. To slow down, gradually move out into the wind and slot back into position in the bunch. By putting your hands on the hoods on your brakes you can "sit up" and put more of your body in the wind to slow down slightly without using your brakes.

Brake carefully

Ride safely and try to stay off the brakes. If you are inexperienced and too nervous to ride close to the wheel in front of you, stay alone at the back and practice. When the pace eases, don't brake suddenly, instead ride to the side of the wheel in front and ease the pedaling off, then drop back on the wheel. Practice on the back and soon you will be able to move up the line with a partner.

Rolling through - swapping off - taking a turn

The most common way to take a turn on the front of the group is for each pair to stay together until they get to the front. After having a turn on the front (generally about the same amount of time as everyone else is taking), the pair separates and moves to each side, allowing the riders behind to come through to the front. To get to the back, stop pedalling for a while to slow down, keep an eye out for the end of the bunch and fall back into line there. It is safer for everyone if you get to the back as quickly as possible as the group is effectively riding four-abreast until you and your partner slot in at the back of the bunch.

Be smooth with turns at the front of the group

Avoid surges unless you are trying to break away from the group. Surges cause gaps further back in the bunch which in turn creates a "rubber band" effect as riders at the back have to continually chase to stay with the bunch. This is particularly evident in larger bunches when cornering or taking off from standing starts at traffic lights where the front of the bunch can be almost at full speed before the back of the bunch is moving.

No half wheeling

Avoid surges unless you are trying to break away from the group. Surges cause gaps further back in the bunch which in turn creates a "rubber band" effect as riders at the back have to continually chase to stay with the bunch. This is particularly evident in larger bunches when cornering or taking off from standing starts at traffic lights where the front of the bunch can be almost at full speed before the back of the bunch is moving.

Choosing when to come off the front

You and your partner need to do some planning when you get on the front so that when you roll through you come off at a place where the road is wide enough for the group to be four-wide for a short time. With some planning, it is often possible to come off the front a few hundred metres earlier or later to avoid a dangerous situation and avoid unnecessarily upsetting motorists.

Always retire to the back of the bunch

If riders push in somewhere in the middle of the bunch rather than retiring to the back after taking a turn, cyclists at the back will not be able to move forward and take a turn of their own. This will make them very cranky and colourful language may ensue. No one wants to be stuck down the back of the bunch for the entire ride and subjected to the "rubber band" effect. Remember that riding in a bunch is about all riders sharing the workload.

Pedal downhill

Pedal downhill when at the front of the bunch. Cyclists dislike having to ride under brakes.

Point out obstacles

Point out obstacles such as loose gravel, broken glass, holes, rocks or debris on the road, calling out "hole" etc as well as pointing is helpful in case someone is not looking at your hand when you point. It is just as important to pass the message on, not just letting those close to the front know. Another obstacle is a parked car, call out "car" and sweep your hand around your back to let people behind know. Point out runners or walkers on bike tracks and slower bikes if you are passing someone on the road.

Hold your wheel

An appropriate gap between your front wheel and the person in front is around 50cm. keep your hands close to the brakes in case of sudden slowing. Sometimes people who are not used to riding in a bunch will feel too nervous at this close range - riding on the right side is generally less nerve-racking for such people as they feel less hemmed in. Watching "through" the wheel in front of you to one or two riders ahead will help you hold a smooth, straight line.

Don't leave gaps when following wheels

Maximize your energy savings by staying close to the rider in front. Cyclists save about 30 per cent of their energy at high speed by following a wheel. Each time you leave a gap you are forcing yourself to ride alone to bridge it. Also, riders behind you will become annoyed and ride around you. If you are in the bunch and there is no one beside the person in front of you, you should move into that gap (otherwise you will be getting fewer windbreaks than everyone else will). Conversely, if you are that person and no-one moves into that gap beside you, you should move to the back of the bunch, the next pair to roll off will come back and one of those riders will fall in beside you.

Don't overlap wheels

A slight direction change or gust of wind could easily cause you to touch wheels with the rider in front and fall.

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